Home Articles Shifting to top gear in the connected vehicles

Shifting to top gear in the connected vehicles

Shifting to top gear in the connected vehicles

Scott J McCormick elaborates on connected vehicles and their importance in the current market.

Connected vehicles are vehicles that use different technologies to communicate bi-directionally with the driver, other cars on the road (vehicle-to-vehicle -V2V), roadside infrastructure (vehicle-to-infrastructure – V2I), and the ‘Cloud’ and other road users equipped to send and receive signals.

There are three primary components of vehicle communications:

  • The communication links between the car and the outside world (radio, cellular, GPS, WiFi, DSRC and Bluetooth).
  • The in-vehicle Controller Area Networks (CAN) that carry all the vehicle’s operational signals.
  • The information and entertainment networks that now carry music, video and voice, and will be the repository of apps, personal data and other content.


Opening any communication gateway incurs risk of data corruption and loss and system failure from malicious intent. As more access is provided to wirelessly send and receive road, weather and traffic information, as well as infotainment content, more risk is incurred.

Threats exist to identity confidentiality, data and application integrity, intrusion for malicious intent, and disrupting continuity of service. In-vehicle software can have up to 100 million lines of code which executes on both the primary computer board(s) and 70-100 microprocessor-based electronic control units (ECUs) networked throughout the body of the car.

Threats also exist from both bad programming and the inability to test all possible software interactions. A large number of vehicles communicating to each other is essentially an ad-hoc, self-forming network of devices with no server-side security. As vehicle communications are new to automakers, understanding and protecting the systems are a major, ongoing priority. As with computers, as the vehicle ages, new threats will surface.

Big Data

Data can be ‘Big’ not just by volume, but by velocity, variety and value. A single car produces an exabyte of data (a billion gigabytes) per year. Isolating useful data to extract knowledge is a monumental task. Managing massive data repositories is a huge concern for automakers. Trend and cycle assessment of road and traffic conditions, vehicle performance, etc., from time frames of minutes to years is valuable. The next step is to mesh the above data to other knowledge bases in an output purchasing relationships, maintenance needs and sales opportunities.

With the advent of vehicle systems that can receive, store, analyse and transmit data, concerns arise with security and privacy of that data. The data your car will hold may include credit card information for tolling systems, personal banking information, work Web portal and other credentials, as well as origin/route/destination for your trips. Some vehicles already provide concierge services to a call center, collect diagnostic and vehicle performance data, as well as mileage, and driving behaviour. Wireless services are forecast to increase substantially, generating more opportunity for transmitting and storing personal data.

Almost all of the data a vehicle generates is used by internal systems for engine management, steering and braking, command and control of subsystems, etc. Almost all of the data above is proprietary to the car maker or their suppliers. Very little of the data is attributable to your travels, driving behaviour or other personal information. The raw data is rarely useful, although the derived knowledge can be.

Training and Certification

Bidirectional communications for vehicles is a new area for the automotive community. Standards are still in development, and devices and systems are proliferating. Numerous activities are underway to provide common metrics for device certification, communication protocol adequacy and personnel qualifications. Equipment, systems and people need to be credentialed in some trustworthy manner to ensure the robustness of the deployed systems. Aside from developing standards, devices must be certified, systems must be able to perform seamlessly across all road weather, traffic and operation conditions, and employees must have a baseline understanding of
the ecosystem.

The lack of trained certified professionals is a tremendous issue. Professionals in the automotive industry are not trained in mobile technologies. Automotive professionals are not trained in telecommunications. Telecommunication carriers are not trained in the automotive business. Mobile technology professionals are not trained in the automotive business. Interoperability between carriers, mobile technologies (devices and applications) and the automotive business is a necessity; there are no professional services to support the growth in this industry.

There will be over 500,000 professionals entering into the connected vehicle market in the next five years in the US alone, and an estimated
2.5 million worldwide. Personnel from a wide variety of industries with efforts associated with the connected vehicle are: insurance, high-tech companies, transportation departments, data
analytics companies, communications, IT staffs, entertainment, as well as the automotive industry. Connected vehicle support and professional services will be imperative to the industry as it
rapidly evolves.

A Connected Vehicle professional needs to know the following:

  • What are the safety, mobility and other verticals?
  • What communications protocols are appropriate for each vertical?
  • What are the differences between embedded, aftermarket and nomadic devices?
  • What are the different software approaches?
  • What standards govern this space?
  • What are the major public and private efforts, and industry affiliations?
  • Data harvesting, storage, usage rights, privacy and security needs
  • What policies and regulations govern this space?
  • How are insurance, finance, retail and other sectors impacted by these changes?


Vehicle communications must be secure and trusted, and industries and governments are working on this. Vehicles will have communication capabilities well before data ownership and privacy policies are finished. Vehicle owners should have the right to opt in to any use of their data, and know how that will be used. To advance in this ecosystem,
people will need to be familiarised,
trained and possibly credentialed on an ongoing basis.

The author is President, Connected Vehicle Trade Association, a non-profit business league established to facilitate the interaction and advance the interests of the entities involved in the vehicle communication environment.

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